LIV Golf may have divided the sport, but the PGA Tour’s response could be at risk of dividing its own membership.
Some suggest this format favours the top players who will always qualify for these events that will carry an average purse of $20 million. One player to adopt this school of thought is Ryan Armour.
The 47-year-old, a one-time winner on the PGA Tour, heavily criticised the new schedule which will feature eight designated tournaments for which you must qualify to access the larger purses.
Armour questioned why a player, who could play well during the season only to fall short of designated status, wouldn’t take a lucrative offer from LIV Golf which pays every player at every event, regardless of where they finish.
Referring to a recent players meeting in San Diego, Armour said: “We talked about the value of full fields, what it means for hospitality, for fans who want to watch golf all day, what the tour experience is all about.
“And then they went forward with it. If this was such a great idea, we should have done it 20 years ago when Tiger was winning everything. These guys aren’t Tiger Woods. None of them are.
“The current hierarchy on the Tour – what makes this generation of 20- and 30-year-olds so special to benefit the most from this?
“Guys who keep their cards, they’re good players, but they’re not going to have a chance to play the playoffs.
“They’re not getting into any of the designated events. But they want those players to go be mules for you at all the pro-ams, all the charity visits, all the hospital visits, and sponsor events.
“And we’re good enough to do that, but we’re not good enough to play in designated events like we did this year?
“Say you finished 75th on the points list, just using that as an example. Yes, you had a really good year, but you don’t get in any of the designated events.
“Why wouldn’t you take a LIV contract? You’ve just been told by the Tour that you fought for and were loyal to that we don’t want you.”
The top 50 of the FedEx Cup standings, the top 30 in the OWGR, winners of PGA Tour events and top points scorers from non-designated events will earn spots in these exclusive tournaments, as well as four sponsorship exemptions.
Players like Hahn and Armour – ranked 305 and 318 in the world respectively – won’t be without chances to earn their stripes, but perhaps the timing of these changes hasn’t been welcomed.
The designated event schedule of 2023, which delivered a $25 million purse to TPC Sawgrass, was designed to nail down the best players and stop them from being lured by LIV Golf.
Rory McIlroy admitted in a press conference at PGA Tour HQ that the infamous meeting in Delaware was “self-serving” and the initial proposition considered fields of 50 to 60 players, but the Tour pushed back on this.
The new designated events in 2024 are set to feature 70 to 80 players and Tour player Kevin Streelman also expressed reservations about the new structure.
“The depth out here is astronomically higher than it’s ever been before,” he said. “I firmly believe 120 people in this field could win this week – I’ve been in eight or nine BMW Championships in 15 years, two Tour Championships, and it always comes down to a shot or two throughout the whole year.
“There is literally no difference in the calibre of player who is 51 or 49 [on the FedEx Cup points list], but one guy’s entire year is set. So that’s the frustrating part from our side.”
World No 55 Mackenzie Hughes added: “No one in San Diego was like, ‘Yeah, this is going to be great.’ And then a month later, the decision was made. I had no idea what was happening.
“I found out through Twitter that we had decided to change the schedule. They just went ahead and did it. Our opinion didn’t matter.”
There are five player directors on the Player Advisory Council: Rory McIlroy, Webb Simpson, Patrick Cantlay, Peter Malnati, and Charley Hoffman.
There are 16 members of the PAC which include Armour, Streelman and Hughes as well as Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa and Will Zalatoris – three players, you could argue, will benefit the most from the new changes.
McIlroy, Homa and Scheffler expressed their excitement for next season’s format at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, while LIV Golf players Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Richard Bland took aim at the perceived hypocrisy of introducing more no-cut events.
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